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Disappointment over Mill Centre proposals

West Lothian Council has expressed its disappointment after the owners of the Mill Centre in Blackburn announced its closure.

15 January
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Centre owners, private pension fund G Dunbar & Sons (Builders), have notified the council that they plan to close the Mill Centre in March 2020. 

West Lothian Council currently has the head-lease for the Mill Centre, and sub leases units to a number of businesses. For a number of years the council has been subsidising the management of the centre, and the head-lease will expire in February 2020. 

A decision was made by Council Executive in June 2018 not to renew this, and the report noted that the council believes the centre to be commercially viable without its involvement. Scotmid own their supermarket in the Mill Centre, along with two currently vacant retail units.

A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: "We are disappointed that the Mill Centre owners have decided to close the centre from March 2020.

"This is a commercial decision for the Mill Centre owners to make, and they have advised us of their view that they believe it is commercially unviable in its existing form.

"We will engage with the developer and tenants over the proposals to try and ensure a positive future for retail and services currently delivered in Blackburn. 

"West Lothian Council and partners recently have invested over £8 million to deliver Blackburn Partnership Centre adjacent to the Mill Centre, creating a hub for community and health services for the village.

"We believe the additional footfall this will generate in the town centre has created opportunities for business in the village, which is continuing to expand along with other communities in West Lothian." 

Council Executive agreed in June 2018 not to renew the head lease for the Mill Centre. The council currently spends approximately £228,000 to operate the Mill Centre per year and receives around £173,000 of income. This gives an operating loss for the council of over £55,000 per year.

West Lothian Council facing an estimated budget gap of £65 million up to 2022/23, so savings must be found to protect essential services such as those for West Lothian's growing young and older people.

The Mill Centre was developed in 1997 as part of an urban renewal project for Blackburn to redevelop the town centre and regenerate the previous run-down shopping centre. The council has fulfilled its obligations under the original head lease and will continue to do so, and the private pension fund / developer has achieved its investment returns as a consequence.
 

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